For the first time since the body of her husband — missing FBI agent Stephen Ivens — was discovered July 30, Thea Ivens on Thursday opened up during a prayer vigil about coping with his death after holding out hope for 80 days that he'd be found alive.
Surrounded by friends and family at St. Francis Xavier Church in Burbank, Thea Ivens recalled the tenuous search effort that all but ground to a halt with few leads after her husband's disappearance. His decomposed body was discovered under a shrub by hikers about 300 feet from the church, the cause of death later determined to be from a self inflicted gunshot wound.
When authorities told her about the discovery, Thea Ivens said she thought the body would be “just a random body.”
“Whenever there was a body found within L.A., they would let me know,” she said. “Even though I was praying hard and hoping to find him, the last thing I wanted to happen is for him to be dead.”
Thea Ivens has said publicly that her husband had been suffering from depression. And when he was reported missing May 10 with his department-issued gun, authorities warned that he could be a danger to himself.
Thea Ivens said that her 36-year-old husband's calling was in law enforcement. After working with the Los Angeles Police Department for eight years, he moved to the FBI.
“He told me that he is affected by what happened on 9/11. He thought that moving to [the] FBI will help people, to be of service. That's the kind of person he is,” she said.
His willingness to serve and consider others was a large part of his character, she added.
“He'd always think about other people before himself. I think that's one of the things that's just some sort of a weakness for him. It's both his strength and weakness,” she said.
In welcoming friends and family to the vigil, she also spoke about how she regretted that her 2-year-old son Kyle had lost his father “for the rest of his life.”
But she also spoke of moving forward.
“However painful it is, I will move forward with the fact of Steve — despite his being so quiet — is loved by so many,” she said.
Long time friend Jaime Gonzalez, who worked with Ivens in the LAPD's Southwest Division, held back tears during his eulogy in which he remembered Stephen Ivens as a shy but determined man.
“Steve's life was too short,” he said. “It's hard to understand why tragic things like this happen. As I stand here today, this is not the question that I want to answer. The question I would like for us to focus on is, who was he and what did he mean to us?”
Gonzalez, who met Stephen Ivens in 1999, said he admired his former colleague's drive to leave Boston for Los Angeles to join the LAPD, leaving friends and family behind.
“Steve had that courage and I admired him for it. I respected him for it,” Gonzalez said.
He described Stephen Ivens as “shy and inhibited,” but said he came to life one night when he sang every word to an album by the rapper DMX.
“I knew we were going to be developing a close friendship after that,” Gonzalez said. “I cherish that memory as a time that I shared with my friend.”
Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter @kellymcorrigan